A lifelong music obsessive, my passion for song can be traced all the way back to my very early childhood, which spanned from the late 1970s into the 1980s. Music commanded a staple presence in my family’s home, with the turntable spinning on the regular, and my parents blessed my and my sister’s ears with a delectable variety of records. Their tastes were thankfully broad, encompassing nearly everything from classic rock (e.g., Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel), AOR (Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan), the blues (John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt), R&B (Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and the entire Motown roster), jazz (Billie Holiday, Miles Davis), classical, and beyond. And while disco’s popularity was already well into freefall mode as the ’70s concluded, it remained a familiar sound emanating from our living room speakers into the new decade.
One of the first songs I vividly recall hearing played frequently in our home was “Upside Down” by Diana Ross. Though I was just a few months shy of three years old at the time of the song’s ascendance in the summer of 1980, and my aural sense was obviously still developing, I was keenly aware that this was a damn funky song that you couldn’t help but dance to. Sonic awesomeness aside, the track also resonated so profoundly with me at the time because the whole notion of something (or someone) being turned upside down—or inside out and round and round, for that matter—is a magical concept to pretty much all toddlers. The eldest of my own two daughters—also approaching her third birthday, as we speak—can surely attest to this. Did I understand that “Upside Down” was really about a woman struggling to reconcile her complicated feelings of frustration and forgiveness toward her unfaithful lover, ultimately conceding the latter in the song’s final verse (“As long as the sun continues to shine/There’s a place in my heart for you”)? Well, no, of course I didn’t. Not that it mattered. All I knew was that I adored the song, and this woman named Diana Ross had a pleasant, reassuring voice.
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Justin Chadwick is a columnist for soulhead.com, whose #LongPlayLove series celebrates the anniversaries of albums that command a sentimental place in his mind, heart and soul. Follow his insatiable passion for music on Twitter @justin_chadwick.